Yulee, Fla. – Each day a law enforcement officer might encounter several different forms of mental illness in a single shift. Therefore, Deputies with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, as part of ongoing training, went through a session recently at the Florida State College Nassau Campus with individuals from the Mental Health Resource Center in Jacksonville.
The training, which was a requirement for all certified officers, focused on showing them the importance on how to deal with those who have mental health problems, the understanding of what causes mental illness, the basic definitions and symptoms of mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia to bipolar disorder to post traumatic stress disorder to paranoia and hallucinations.
The training also focused on verbal and non-verbal communications for officers when dealing with the mentally ill and the behavior of those they come in contact with, as well as the importance of officer safety.
“Law enforcement officers face a myriad of problems and issues on a daily basis,” says Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper. “It is important that they are properly trained in order to resolve any situation. Unfortunately, many of these issues relate to individuals with some type of mental illness. They can range from depression to schizophrenia. This training allowed us to better understand the complexity of a person’s mental health. With a greater understanding, we are equipped to be more effective.”
The training helps officers see the individual more as someone needing assistance than as someone posing a potential threat. Once that comfort level is reached, it is easier for an officer to see how different provisions of the Baker Act (which allows for involuntary examination to those with a mental illness or is a harm to self, harm to others, or self-neglectful) can help someone get needed treatment.
This intensive training attempts to provide a common base of knowledge about mental illness and give the officers a basic foundation from which to build. The course is intended to provide officers with skills to:
- Recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
- Recognize whether those signs and symptoms represent a crisis situation.
- De-escalate mental illness crisis.
- Know where to take the consumers in crisis.
- Learn about jail diversion options.
- Know appropriate steps to follow-up, such as contacting case managers, providing families with community resources.
Learn how to problem solve with the treatment system.